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What does the future look like? FutureFest 2016 had it covered.

There are conferences and events that you go to where you end up glazing over slightly and begin to fantasise about cups of tea. FutureFest isn’t one of those.

This year’s themes covered Work, Play, Love and Thrive. From debates on Women in the Workplace, ideas on applying design theory to life planning, hyper-enhanced sensuality and the roles of virtual and augmented realities to the exploration of love and death, the two days provided a smorgasbord of delights to captivate the mind and senses.

I’m not really down with all the latest tech so for me FutureFest provides an opportunity to dip a toe in to things I feel like I should know a bit about and to think about what they mean for me, my life and my work. It’s interesting to hear about virtual reality playing an increasingly successful role with charity fundraising for example by providing a more emphatic and immersive experience for funders and donors. It gets me thinking about what this new technology could mean for organisations wanting to shed light on complex and emotive social challenges and what the implications could be for facilitating change by bringing far away problems to people’s immediate consciousness. What role does virtual and augmented realities have in new age storytelling and how can we use it to drive positive behaviours?

And when it comes to virtual reality, where are ethical lines being drawn? Are feelings and relationships that stem from experiences in a virtual world as valid in the “real world” and have these boundaries now totally blurred? How dangerous (if at all) is this kind of escapism and how different is it to getting caught up in a good book? Can gaming provide the mechanism for more engaged and interactive learning because of the immersive and emotive experience that it provides?

And then to consider work and play. Have we (as grown ups) forgotten what it means to nurture creativity through play? Do we get so cynical with age that the idea of play and enjoying what we do becomes such an unobtainable dream that we dismiss it all together with the idea that if it’s fun, it must be useless?! To play suggests a tendency for experimentation and a willingness to experience failure. The majority of successful entrepreneurs talk about being ok with failing and that ultimately, it’s the failures that make you think harder. To play is therefore not a frivolous business at all but a gateway to endless possibilities. Get your head around that and we’re in for some really interesting times, I thought to myself more than once over the weekend.

The weekend was filled with lots of things to make you ponder and FutureFest makes you realise that there are lots of people out there figuring out the answers to some tricky, but exciting questions. They do it with humour, creativity and lots of flair and you're left feeling like you can take on anything.

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